plus sizes

All posts tagged plus sizes

Dear Ashley Graham

Published March 16, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Dear Ashley Graham,

Please stop.  Just… stop.  Look, I know you’re the hot name of the moment in plus-size models and you’re getting a lot of media and marketing attention.  Congratulations, enjoy it.  But you seriously need to knock it off with the whole thing about not wanting the term “plus-size” to be used.  What am I talking about?  Well, there’s this…

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 7.56.39 PM
I get that you don’t want to be called a “plus-size” model because let’s face it, you’re not a plus-size woman.  Unlike myself and so many other women who shop at the stores you collect cheques from for modelling their clothes, your body is not fat.  To anyone walking past you on the street, you’re just a woman, and a very beautiful one at that.  But when I walk down the street, I’m a fat woman.  Nobody is going to dispute that fact.  That’s where the vast chasm lies between the models who are chosen and paid to showcase clothes for fat women, and the actual women who are buying them.

AG

A plus-size model.

 

An actual plus-size customer. (Photo by Paul Harris)

An actual plus-size customer. (Photo by Paul Harris)

The thing is, women like me need the label “plus-size”.  We know that the label doesn’t refer to us or our actual bodies, but refers to the section in the store that we need to find – almost always a dingy corner in the back with no signage, poor housekeeping and terrible lighting – if we are lucky.  You wouldn’t know what it’s like to need that section because your body is catered to in most standard “straight” sized clothing ranges.  When you want to buy a swimsuit, you need to know where in the store to go to buy one right?  So you go to the swimsuit section.  Well, we need and want to buy clothes that fit our body, so we need to be able to find the section that has those clothes, and for the last century, almost anyway, there has been a conveniently named section called “plus-size” that we can seek out.  This saves us from wading through the other 90% of clothing that doesn’t include us.

When you, who have far more access to the media and marketing than we do, by the blessing of your pretty face, hourglass figure and relatively small size (compared to actual plus-size clothing customers) start trumpeting that the clothing industry needs to get rid of the term plus-size, two things happen.

Firstly, you stigmatise fatness further than it already is.  You might not be actually saying that, but that’s what many not-fat people, including the businesses who are supposed to be serving us, actually hear.  The corollary of that is that not-fat people and businesses stop listening to us.  They don’t listen to us much anyway, but your efforts are causing them to shut us out even further.

Secondly, businesses start thinking that they can “drop the plus” which means they start literally dropping plus-size product.  They downsize their collections.  They trim the size range, removing the larger sizes, which are already as rare as hens teeth.  So you are actively making it harder for many of us to find the clothing that we want and need.

While we’re at it, let’s touch on the “curvy sexylicious” thing.  I personally find it cheesy and childish, but you get to decide how you identify and you’re perfectly entitled to decide on that label for yourself.  But the reality is, the vast majority of women who actually buy plus-size clothing will never get to or want to be referred to as “curvy sexylicious”.  To start with, many of us a “boxy fat fabulous” or “roly-poly arse-kicking” or “shaped-like-the-magic-pudding awesome”.  We’re fat.  We don’t have neat little hourglass figures with a tiny tummy bump or a pair of thick thighs.  We have big, fat bodies.  Bodies that are still awesome, but they’re not being given the opportunity to model for Lane Bryant anytime soon.  Also, I can’t go to work in a lacy bra and tight skirt and call myself “curvy sexylicious” like you do when you go to work.  I need to wear something suitable for my job and call it “creative professional woman”.  Sexing up is all well and good, but we need more than lacy bras and sparkly evening wear (don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of lace and sparkle).  We need suits for the office, dresses for daytime, skirts and blouses to go to church in, smart casual gear to go to the school event in, all those sorts of thing.  When I go through my work day, I don’t make kissy faces and toss my hair – I have to answer phones and go to meetings and do a whole lot of innovative thinking, plus a lot of networking with people of all types – from management to politicians, from librarians to electricians.  That’s not exactly “curvy sexylicious” appropriate, you know?

Besides, not everything in plus-size has to be “sexy”.  In fact, not everything about womanhood has to be “sexy”.  Sexy is fun sure, and has it’s place, but women are worth far more than their worth to the male gaze.  We are more than valuable for our fuckability.  When I see models promoting plus-size clothing brands, they’re almost always naked, in lingerie or in some state of “sexyfication”.  I know why this is done – mostly for the shock value of seeing a body that has some small rolls or curves in a world where most models are ultra-thin.  We often don’t get to see the products actually showcased in the same way that straight-sized clothes are.  Which makes it so hard to shop for the clothes we want and need.  Particularly when our clothes are relegated to online shopping or badly maintained racks in the back of the store.  We need to see what an outfit will look like when we wear the whole outfit – very hard when we’re forced to shop online.  The lacy bra and tight skirt is cute on you in a promo shot, sure… but how do I know what it looks like with a jacket or blouse in the same range?   How do I know what it will look like on a body shaped like mine, rather than tall, hourglass and slim like you are?

What it really boils down to is that we need more clothing options than there currently are in our sizes, and we need to be able to see them in a way that reflects how we live, feel and look.  We need to see ourselves.  Your constant calls to lose the term “plus-size” don’t help that.  Perhaps if you don’t want to be called a “plus-size model”, it’s time for you to step back, stop collecting the cheques for jobs that are supposed to serve fat women and let some larger, more realistic to the customer, models take the jobs.

Yours sincerely
Kath
aka Fat Heffalump

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Let’s Talk Classism in Plus-Size Clothing

Published February 17, 2016 by Fat Heffalump

Wow.  In the past 24 hours I have seen some of the most disgusting displays of classism in discussions about plus-size clothing that I think I’ve EVER seen in the fatosphere.  Wait until you see the doozy I just screen capped.

As most of you probably already know, Beth Ditto dropped her new plus-size clothing line this week.  It’s gorgeous.  I would love to own almost every item in the range.  But a lot of fat women have quite rightfully raised that they are priced out of the range because it aims at the high end market.  This isn’t a criticism of Beth herself, or her new range, but an important message about how one high end fashion range is not a victory for fat women in general, because MOST of us are not able to access the range (let’s acknowledge the cut off of larger sizing too, but that’s a conversation for another post).

My main comment was that for many fat women, the cost of just one of those garments is equivalent to a week’s rent, or filling their car with fuel for the month, or paying their utilities bill.  When it comes down to choosing which gets paid for, the necessities of life have to come first.  Even after necessities, if looking at value for money, for the same cost as one Beth Ditto jumpsuit, I could buy air fares to New Zealand and back.

But the pushback against anyone raising this issue of affordability and access has been swift and it has been pretty disgusting.  Mostly because affluent fat women are assuming that the statement “All fat women deserve access to clothing that they need and want.” as “Take away the rich lady’s Beth Ditto clothes!!”  Which is NOT what is being said at all.

It’s all well and good to tell fat women to shop ethically, to invest in high end fashion and to buy local, but in a world where fat women are openly discriminated against in the workplace and in education, this is a moot point.  Don’t believe me?  Look at this little screen shot @kiddotrue shared on Twitter…

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Now, it would be great if we all had access to the kind of funds required to dress in Beth Ditto’s gorgeous range.  But the reality is, most of us don’t and yet we still need clothing.  And when I say need clothing, I mean we need a range of clothing to suit our lives – which includes clothing that is to our taste as well as meets our practical need.  The ability to express oneself via clothing is as vital to our humanity as it is to cover our bodies.

Unfortunately, so many people have NO IDEA what “budget” actually means.  They say “ditch fast fashion and invest in yo dress” with no regard to whether or not many fat women actually CAN fork out $120 – $400 for one garment.  Others cite the availability of mass produced clothing brands – like Lane Bryant – as evidence that there is “affordable” clothing available to fat women, completely dismissing that at full price, many of those brands are also outside of a lot of fat women’s price range too.  A cursory glance at Lane Bryant’s website shows full price for many garments up over the $100 range.  Admittedly, you’re more likely to get a discount code or pick up sale stock from a mass produced range than a designer one, but even then, when compared with what is available in straight size ranges, plus-size fashion is extremely expensive.

This also assumes that everyone has access to brands from the US and UK – not all fat women are white Western women, let’s not forget that.

Of course, there are also those who cite the deeply problematic nature of mass produced clothing lines, from both how and where it is produced and where the designs come from.  I agree, there needs to be a radical shakeup of the fashion industry in general to ensure that all clothing is ethically produced to a minimum level.  But that is not going to help your average fat woman with a limited budget to clothe herself for her job, her education, and her other day-to-day life.  If there are no ethically produced clothes available at an accessible price point, then fat women have no alternative than to buy the mass produced budget product.  And the problem lies in that there are little to no budget options for fat women.

The problem I see is that there is a deeply entrenched classism that assumes that women who want and need fashionable clothing all have access to the kind of disposable income that is required to afford the clothing that is currently on the market – from mass-produced through to designer ranges like Beth Ditto’s.  And on top of that, there is an assumption that poor fat women are not interested in being “fashion forward” or don’t have or want careers that require a certain look or standard of dressing.  As evidenced by this gobsmacking comment left on a Facebook thread on the topic earlier this morning, I’m feeling generous and won’t name the commenter…

Some of us want to be/are/are on a career track to be creative directors, ad execs, media professionals, or other life choices where we want to look a certain way.

The assumption that poor fat women have no ambition and don’t want or need to look a certain way is frankly, disgusting.  Firstly, many of us who don’t have the money to drop on the currently available clothing are ALREADY in professional careers where we have to find suitable clothing to present ourselves for our work.  I am so myself.  Secondly, both poverty and fat stigma regularly hold women back from achieving those career goals, and partly so because we cannot access the clothing we need to dress like our peers.  When you cannot access the same type of clothing as your peers, it is often a hindrance to progression in your career.  We all know that fat women are often considered “sloppy” and “lazy” – how much of this is because of the dearth of reasonable quality, stylish clothing which prevents us from achieving the same look as our thin colleagues?

I see my straight-sized colleagues turn up to work beautifully turned out in clothes from Target and other budget options, but for me to wear clothes of equivalent quality and style, I have to spend twice as much money.  Just Target alone has a vast chasm between the quality and style of what they offer straight sized customers and plus-sized ones.  They have garments of every type and style in straight sizes, but one look at the plus-sizes shows an ocean of poorly made t-shirts, loose pants and weekend/casual wear – none of which is suitable for my workplace.

Not to mention that fat women have other financial responsibilities as well as clothing themselves – be they funding family needs, education costs, or high living costs in general.  It is well known that the cost of living has skyrocketed in the past decade, particularly for those at the lower income levels.  We are paying double the rent/mortgage as we were in the late 1990’s on almost exactly the same salary.  Fewer and fewer of us have room in our budget to spend on anything outside of absolute necessities.

I also had one woman patronisingly citing “industry terms” about availability of budget clothing as though that somehow dissolved the issue of accessibility to affordable clothing for low income fat women.

Look, I know that the clothing industry is complicated and problematic.  I know that it’s not easy to produce quality garments in plus-sizes at a budget range in the current industry climate and that the whole clothing industry needs to be radically changed.  But that’s not solving the problem that is here and now – accessibility to suitable clothing for ALL fat women.

So, while many of you are squeeing over Beth Ditto’s beautiful range as being a victory for fat women, remember that through no fault of their own, not all fat women are as fortunate as those of you who can afford those clothes and that they have a legitimate reason to feel excluded from the happy buzz that many of you are enjoying, and are rightfully feeling hurt at being excluded yet again.

Around We Go Again – The Plus-Size Retailer Merry-Go-Round

Published December 19, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

It seems every week we see the same conversation hashed out in social media/articles over plus-size retailers.  It goes like this.

·         Plus-size clothing brand puts out new set of photos of “curvy” women (all too often in their underwear rather than the clothes they are selling) with “Everyone is beautiful” strain of slogan.  (Note: “curvy” models are usually straight sized with breasts and hips, ALWAYS hourglass shaped, usually white and femme.  “Curvy” models are not fat models.)

·         Media sites interview the models.  Models say that they don’t want to be labelled “plus-size”, they want to be just models.  They say “plus-size” is derogatory.  Curvy models collect paycheck for a job they clearly don’t want to be doing.

·         Actual fat women who are forced to shop at these brands because there are little to no other alternatives (particularly in budget price ranges), say to the brand “We need the label plus-size, it saves us from having to wade through 90% of stock that does not include us, and we aren’t ashamed of being plus-sized.  Please use models who look like us.”

·         Plus-size clothing brand completely ignores what their actual customers want.  Actual customers have no option to purchase elsewhere.

·         Trolls turn up and say “Curvy is fine, but ew, not obese!”

·         Rinse and repeat to infinity.

I want off this merry-go-round!

merry-go-round and round and...

The problem really lies with the plus-size clothing brands – a) co-opting fat activism language to try to sell us products and b) refusing to employ models who look like their customers to promote their products.

The big box brands have realised that more and more women are hearing the messages that fat activists have been working tirelessly to get out to them, so they have started to use anything they can sloganise to cash in on that success.  They take all the touchy-feely bits, the easy positive stuff and repackage it as their own and then because they have a wider audience than fat activists do, sit back and enjoy the kudos that they are somehow “revolutionary”.  Yet those of us who have lived in fat bodies and worked to liberate fat women from the hatred, stigma and shame that is heaped on us know, this is in no way new or revolutionary.  It’s a vastly diluted version of the appreciation of fat bodies that really only celebrates bodies that are slightly outside of the margins of mainstream.  They take the work that is about improving the quality of life for fat people, and water it down to an advertising slogan to sell products.

The second part of the problem is that these same brands continually hire models who would not ever buy or wear those brand clothes in their day to day lives, often pinning the too large clothes or padding the models in photo shoots.  Not only does this create an unrealistic expectation of how the clothes fit on their customers bodies, but it also means that the customers of those businesses never see themselves represented in marketing that is FOR THEM.  And, with the way that the media works now, instead of asking the customers how they feel about products and the messages that these businesses send out, the media immediately turn to the models, many of whom do not want to identify as a customer of those businesses (ie, a fat customer).  One thing that is raised repeatedly by so many amazing fat activists, bloggers, tweeters etc is that these models are more than happy to collect the paycheque from these businesses, but they don’t want to be seen as a customer of the same business.  That’s pretty hypocritical attitude to take.

Unfortunately, unlike straight sized clothing customers, most plus-size customers, particularly those of us in the larger size bracket, can’t make the choice to simply no longer shop at these businesses.  Either because there is no alternative in their size bracket, or in their location, or simply because these big box companies are the only ones who are able to offer clothing in a lower price range.  I myself would LOVE to only shop with small, indie brands but the reality is that very few of them offer products in my size, and if they do, I do not have the budget to be able to spend a large amount of money on one or two items.   I have to maintain my entire wardrobe for my entire life (work, leisure, events, underwear and swimwear – everything!) with a budget that would only buy me one party dress or maybe two skirts from many indie designers.  This is not a fault with the indie designers – their products have more overheads and are usually far better quality than a mass produced product – it’s just that many of us just don’t have that kind of budget, particularly in these harsh economic times.

Shopping is serious business when you are a "Trendsetter"

IMPORTANT: That is not and will never be, the fault of the plus-sized customer.  I have no time for any business of any size/type which blames the customer for their business failures.  But it’s only plus-sizes really where you see the customers blamed for a failure of a business.  We are expected to hold up businesses whether they provide us a product or a price range that suits us.  You never hear of a business that sells only straight-sized clothes saying “Well, people won’t pay for quality.”  Because people WILL pay for quality IF they can afford it and if that quality is a product that they want and need.

Straight sizes have the luxury of choice – they can and do pick and choose which businesses they buy from – there are plenty of budget options for straight sized clothes out there.  If they don’t like how a business is marketing to them, they have the option to shop elsewhere.

To be honest, I wonder if the big box plus-size businesses intentionally foster that environment.  They perpetuate the myth that the customer is somehow at fault for there not being range, price and quality, blame us because “Those lines just don’t sell.” knowing full well that we don’t have the luxury of choosing to go elsewhere.  It’s a very effective method – keep the options to a minimum and perpetuate the myth that variety doesn’t work so that other businesses don’t bother to try, and know that they have a captive market that can’t go anywhere else.

So what has to be fixed?

The first thing that needs to happen is that plus-size businesses need to be proud of their product – or start stocking product that they can be proud of.  How often do you see website front pages and storefronts for plus-sized clothes that don’t even  have the clothes front and centre of their marketing!  I mean why are they promoting plus-size clothing with naked or underwear-clad women?  Or why do they use other props in their windows instead of proudly displaying their product front and centre.  I think a lot of them know their product is mediocre at best so they try to distract their customers with gimmicks and cheesy props.  Show us the clothes!  And if people aren’t attracted to the products when they see them, get better products!

The next thing is they need to start marketing their products properly.   They need to stop trying to co-opt body politics and start actually promoting their products in a positive and aspirational way.  And when I say aspirational, I don’t mean thin, white and hourglass shaped.  Aspirational means so much more than that.  By marketing their products as fun, luxury, quality, fashionable, stylish, and positioning themes around friendship, success, professionalism, entertainment/enjoyment etc.  I want to see aspirational marketing campaigns for plus-sizes that have messages that we see all the time in other marketing – simple things like “Spoil yourself – you’ve earned it!”  or “Look great – feel great!”  Give me some happy fat women modelling the clothes front and centre any day over another “All bodies are beautiful” with only white, small, hourglass shaped models in their undies.

And most of all, we need to see the actual women the clothes are made for modelling them.  That means no more “plus-size models” which are anything between a size 8 and 14 and some actual models size 16+.  Preferably a range of sizes between 16 and 32.  I need to be able to see what the clothes look like on a body like mine.

Heil Shopping

What can we do to drive that fix?

This is the toughest one since we ARE so limited in our options.  We need to keep telling these companies we want to see their clothes and we want to see them on bodies like our own.  Where financially possible, we need to support indie businesses who DO market well and provide things we want and need.  We need to stop expecting models to be the spokespeople for body politics and we need to tell the media that they’re not appropriate spokespeople for body politics.  We need to tell the big box companies that we have money that we want to spend, if only they would provide us the clothes that we want and need.  We need to tell them when their product is poor quality, over-priced, or simply just un-fashionable.

But our biggest power lies in word of mouth.  That’s what sells a product, and particularly so in the fat community.  If a company is doing great stuff, tell people about it.  Tell your fat friends.  Post it on your social media.  Blog about it.  Post on the company’s social media telling them that you love what they are doing, please do more of it.  They ARE listening, the fact that they’re co-opting our work is telling us that, so get out there and speak up!

Australian Brands Plus Size Research – Can You Help?

Published November 29, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

I’ve been contacted by a student who would like some assistance with some research she is doing.  Ana Maria Gonzalez is studying a Master of Commerce and is a textiles designer who loves fashion and new ideas.  Currently, she is doing her final project research about the marketing communication strategies of the Australian Plus Size Brands.

If you are in Australia and would like to help Ana Maria, please copy and paste the questionnaire below and reply to her in an email with your answers.  You can email her at this address.

Plus size Australian Brands Questionnaire

  1. Please, let’s start for the basics. Name:___________________________________
  2. For how long have you been engaged with the curvy fashion industry?
  3. What was the motivation to start the blog?
  4. How do you find the Australian Fashion options for the “plus size” customers?
  5. Which are your preferred Australian “plus size” brands? Why?
  6. Regarding brand communication, which kind of models do you find more engaging in the plus size brands, the ones that are at the lower end of the sizes or those than represent a larger size? If so, describe.

    Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 10.52.56 AM

  7. Do you have or you faced any difficulties in finding good fashion items in Australia?
  8. Do you consider that the Australian plus size fashion brands manage an open and empowering communication to their clients?
  9. What is your opinion about the advertisings used in for the plus size fashion vs those used for “the regular sizes”
  10. Is there something that you would like to see different in the instore communication of the plus size Australian brands? Could be photos, staff, disposition of the space, fitting rooms, etc….
  11. Do you like to participate in the Facebook pages of these brands? What is the response that you got?
  12. Do you also engage with the other social media sites of the Australian plus size brands?

Plus 40 Fabulous – An Introduction

Published November 14, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

Headerplus40

I am thrilled to participate in the Plus 40 Fabulous project created by the lovely Leah and Mookie.  Leah and Mookie wanted to claim a space in fatshion/plus-size blogging for people over 40, which considering the way women are relegated to the sidelines as they get older, is a fantastic idea.  There are plenty of perky young lovelies blogging in the fatosphere, and good on them, but there is no reason that women have to stop enjoying dressing and feeling good about themselves as they get older.  I believe strongly in visibility and representation, and if my participating in Plus 40 Fabulous gets one 40+ fatty putting on a fab outfit and feeling good about herself, then it’s more than worth it.

So I know a lot of you already follow my blog and other online presence, but as this is an introduction post for the project and will be linked through the #plus40fabulous tag, there may be new people who have not read my work before.  To those, I say a hearty welcome!  To the rest of you champs who have been around a while, it’s good to see you again!

Introduction

Well, my name is Kath and I recently turned 43 years old.  In my day job I’m an IT librarian in Brisbane, but by night (well, it’s not restricted to just night any more!) I love to put on my rainbow tights and sparkly dress and have been a fat activist for about six years now.  Mostly I concentrate on the rights of fat women, because I am royally fed up with being treated like a second-class citizen because of my size, but I do believe that every day things like the access to attractive clothing and being represented in a positive light as a fat woman are actually radical acts of fat activism.  Not apologising for who I am is one of the most powerful things I have learned to do.

It me!

It me!

My Style

There is a running joke amongst my friends and I that I’m trying to bring in “toddler style” as a thing.  I’ve been walking through a shopping centre and said to my friend Kerri “Why can’t I have HER outfit?” and she has replied “Kath, she’s four.”  But why should little kids get all the fun stuff?  If I could, I would be all about the rainbow tights, sparkly dresses, ladybug shoes and fairy wings.  I’m on a quest to smash the idea that women have to get dull as they mature and that a wardrobe has to be conservative to be professional.  What I wear has no bearing on my intellect and my ability to do my job, but it does show how creative and passionate I am.

I have been fat for most of my life (I prefer the term fat to any other euphemisms, it is in no way derogatory, simply a descriptor like tall or brown-eyed) but only really started developing my own style in my late 30’s.  Prior to that, I really felt that I didn’t deserve nice things, and besides, they were much, much harder to find back then!  But after I found fat activism, built my confidence and self esteem, I realised that I loved playing with style to express who I am.  Where once I tried very hard to be either a brown sparrow who disappeared into the background, or did the whole grungy-goth anti-fashion thing, I realised that the one thing that defines my taste most is my love of colour.  Brown, grey and black have their place in my wardrobe, but mostly I am bored by them when it comes to clothes.  I love colour in all aspects of my life and will always gravitate to either the brights, the bolds or the pretties.  I love quirky prints and fun accessories.

I’m in no way beholden to fashion as an industry – mostly because it has never cared a jot about me or my money – but I do love clothes and style, and I wear what makes me happy.

She's got cooties!

She’s got cooties!

How I Feel About Being Over 40

Personally, I’m loving being over 40.  I hear a lot of people dreading turning 40, or hiding their age, saying they’re 29 again etc.  But life just keeps getting better.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect, and things change physically a bit as you get older, but I’m far more content and definitely more confident now than I have ever been.  I think a lot of people see high school or their 20’s as their peak in life – but to me that’s sad.  If you peak that early, what are you doing with the rest of your life?  The only thing that really bothers me is that my hearing and eyesight are deteriorating a bit more (they’ve never been great anyway), which is frustrating.  But I haven’t had my natural hair colour for over 20 years, preferring to change it to something more fun, so greys don’t bother me and fat doesn’t wrinkle much anyway!  I’m proud of my age, and wish more women would embrace the years they have lived.

Oh, and I wish menopause would hurry up, I’m not using my uterus, it can just retire!!

Inked Up and Fabulous!

Inked Up and Fabulous!

How Society Treats Older Women

This however, is a different matter.  I’ll start by saying I don’t buy into the “We just get invisible.” thing, because fat women are mostly invisible at any age.  As are other marginalised people – we don’t exist unless it’s to be ridiculed or vilified.  However, there is a courtesy paid to young women, even marginalised young women, that older women don’t get.  Once you pass a certain age, you’re seen as either an inconvenience or a drudge.  Even the most talented and passionate woman stops being referred to as “dynamic” the minute she turns about 35.  Add to that the fact that older women are just not visible in the media and entertainment in the same way that older men are.  Look at Maggie Gyllenhaal, being told she’s “too old” at 37 to play the love interest of a man in his 50’s!  With a few notable exceptions, older women are mostly relegated to being mothers or grandmothers or crones.  Which is so unlike the reality of  all the older women I know – who are vibrant, funny, gifted, intelligent, compassionate, talented and just downright interesting, if you bother to take the time to know them.

Always subtle.

Always subtle.

I’ve always been someone with friends of all ages, right from when I was a teenager myself.  I still have friends who range from a 21 through to their 60’s who are all different and interesting in their own way, and they find me interesting.  If we only surround ourselves with people at our own small age group, then we’re missing out on all the different perspectives in life.  I am eternally grateful to the older friends who have imparted wisdom on me over the years, and now I hope I can do the same for my younger friends, in my own way.  My wisdom usually consists of “Fuck it, you only live once!”

Which brings me to…

Fashion Advice and Inspiration

Clash those prints!

Clash those prints!

Fuck it, you only live once!

It’s true though.  You can spend your life worrying about what other people think, or you can just wear stuff that makes you feel happy and confident.  It might not be the same for you as it is for me, but whatever it is for you, just wear it.  As I said before, I don’t care a damn about the fashion industry, and I’m not interested in following trends to the letter.  I pick and choose the bits I like and ignore the rest.

As for inspiration, mostly toddlers.  I’m only half kidding there – I mean I do love other sources, like Advanced Style, Arched Eyebrow, Cupcake’s Clothes and The Curvy and Curly Closet –  but for anyone who has been around toddlers for any length of time, you’ll know that they demand to wear what they want to wear, even if it doesn’t match, isn’t considered “appropriate” for the occasion, or isn’t practical.  They don’t care if it’s their Auntie’s wedding, they’ll wear purple gumboots, shorts with frogs on them and a stripey turtleneck if that’s what pleases them.  We all have that innate desire to just say “Bugger it.” and wear what we like, but it’s wheedled, teased and bullied out of us most from a very young age and perpetuates throughout most of our lives.  Sometimes you just have to put on that sparkly dress and rainbow tights with your shoes with the flowers on them and rock your own sweet style.

Style is all attitude.

Style is all attitude.

If you’d like to see more of Plus 40 Fabulous, you can find the posts and info on the social media accounts:

And if you’re posting about the project, be sure to use the hashtag #plus40fabulous

Not Down with #DropthePlus

Published March 31, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

It’s highly likely that you’ve already heard of the campaign #droptheplus, initiated by ex-Biggest Loser host Ajay Rochester and model Stefania Ferrario.  If you’re on Twitter and follow any fat activists at all, most of us have been pretty vocal about it.  If not, Rochester and Ferrario are behind a push to stop the media and businesses using the term “plus-size”.  From what I’ve read, they both believe that referring to women as plus-sized is embarrassing and they don’t like the idea that models who are outside the very thin range that high fashion deems “standard” are called “plus-size”.

I have a lot of serious problems with this campaign.

Firstly, let’s talk about the two women who are spearheading the campaign.  Anything initiated or supported by anyone who was ever involved with The Biggest Loser strikes some serious alarm bells for me.  I know Ajay Rochester has left the franchise and she’s had some criticisms of it, but the fact that she thought it was an acceptable project to ever put her name to is something I find deeply worrying.  It is probably one of the most blatant examples of fat hate and is actually the televised torture and humiliation of fat people.  Nobody who actually really cares about fat people would have anything to do with it.

Then there’s the matter of a woman who is happy to make money out of the plus-size market, even though she isn’t actually plus-sized herself.  Stefania Ferrario is deemed a plus-size model, though, like most other plus-sized models (a tiny few are in-betweenies, with exception of Tess Munster who is actually the first REALLY plus-sized model), she does not have to shop from the plus-size section of any store.    Yet she is employed to sell us plus-sized clothing.  She is a model in a thin body, even if the very dodgy industry refers to her as a plus-size model.  Perhaps if she does not want to be referred to as plus-size, she could campaign for realistically sized models in the entire fashion industry – move away from the extremely thin for “standard” fashion and actually get some fat models who have bodies like the customers they serve for plus-size clothing?  Will she be advocating for more diversity in modelling for clothes, or is she happy to continue being paid to model clothes that actually would never fit the customers she’s supposed to be selling to?

To me, it seems that both Ajay and Stefania are ashamed of being referred to as plus-sized, as do those who support the campaign.  A quick look through the photos on Instagram and Tumblr under that hashtag show that most of the women who support it are either thin, or at most, in-betweenies.  So these are women who either are, or can pass as, not-fat.  Which tells me that most of these women are actually on this campaign because they don’t want to be considered fat, probably because they believe that fat is a bad thing.  There is a lot of rhetoric in the campaign about “all women being normal”, but I don’t see anyone with a body like mine being celebrated as “normal” as part of this campaign.

I do have a problem with people who don’t actually need to shop in the plus-size section, or those who have more options than others in plus-sizes, having any say on whether or not we use that term.  If you’re a thin woman, or even a smaller fat, why is it any business of yours to demand that anyone not use a term to describe their own bodies?

The only reason it would be “embarrassing” to be referred to as plus-size is if you think being plus-sized is a bad thing. This is another example of how the body positive movement excludes fat people, by suggesting it’s embarrassing to be identified as one of us.

Fat activists and fatshion bloggers have spent a lot of years working very, very hard to improve the market for plus-size clothing.  We’ve worked hard to get the industry taking plus-sizes seriously, and to include us in their merchandise and marketing.  We are still a very, very long way from being where we should be by way of options for fat women, but, there are more and better options now than there were 5 years ago.  That said, if you are over a 2X (or it’s local equivalent), the options dwindle down to very few indeed.  We are still in a time where major retailers exclude plus-sizes by removing them from their stores and expecting plus-sized customers to buy online.  They exclude us by charging ridiculously inflated prices compared to straight-sized clothing.  They exclude us by offering unfashionable styles in dark, dreary colours.  And many, MANY of them simply exclude us by size.  By either not offering a range over a size 14 or 16, or offering only a slightly extended size range, cutting off before actual fat people.  As it stands, at a size 4X I can count on one hand the number of places that carry clothes in my size, and only one of those has styles and colours that I REALLY like, rather than just settle for because I need clothes.

What I would like to know is if Rochester and Ferrario and those supporting the campaign, are campaigning for retailers to include ALL sizes in their clothing ranges.  And I don’t mean just a few extra sizes on top of what is currently considered straight sizes, I mean to AT LEAST a size 5X or 6X.  Because unless they are, this campaign to drop the term plus-size is actually not helping those of us that rely on plus-size ranges.  It is in fact, going to impact negatively on us.  Retailers will feel that it’s acceptable to no longer stock any sizes over their standard range, because they’re going to “drop the plus”.  Which will leave people of actual size with even fewer options than we already have.  The last thing we need is for plus-sizes to be eliminated in any way.

I also want to know how Rochester and Ferrario and their supporters would like to address those of us who are actually fat.   I don’t mean twee euphemisms like curvy, chubby, fluffy, BBW (such a gross concept) or voluptuous.  I mean actually fat.  If they have a problem with the term plus-size, you can bet that also have a problem with the word fat?  Or do they think that there is a limitation on which people get to be considered “normal”?  Are they just moving the bar of “normal” slightly to a place that still excludes many of us?   If they’re not going to use the word “plus-size” to refer to bodies like mine, what word will they use?   I’ll bet my 300lb+ body won’t be considered “normal” by them, so what do they propose I use?  I have the funny feeling that the vilest of all words “obese” will be tabled “because it’s a clinical term”.  HELL NO.  I am not going to be labelled as a disease.

All in all, the #droptheplus campaign is another deeply misguided attempt to create some kind of feel good movement that yet again, excludes those of us at the far end of the bell curve.  And as I said in my last post, if your activism doesn’t include ALL fat people, it is not making any real change.

Each and Every One Of Us

Published March 29, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

The fatosphere has a problem.  Put simply, it’s too nice.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to be part of the fatosphere, and I think amazing work is being done.  But too many fat people are being left behind.

We spend far too much time trying to accommodate people who hold us back from our rights.  We make space for people who refuse to acknowledge that fat stigma exists.  We allow diet and weight loss rhetoric in our spaces, despite the fact that both are the product of fat hate.  We fold the minute a thin person says “But what about skinny shaming?!” as though they’ve ever been there for us while were dealing with people who would eliminate us altogether, the same people whose silence in the face of the hate and bullying fat people receive is deafening.  We rush to prove that fat people can be healthy, pretty, fit, fashionable, successful, which on the surface is stereotype-busting, but is only a thin veneer over the stigmatisation of less privileged fat people.  We don’t have to be health, fit, pretty, fashionable, successful etc to earn our rights as human beings.

We have rights by default.  They are not something that has to be earned.

There needs to be room for more than just young, white, affluent, able-bodied, straight, smaller-fat, femme presenting, cis-women showing how beautiful they can be and how they’re “valuable” to others.  Because by focusing on the “acceptable fats”, we are inadvertently drawing a line that creates “unacceptable fats”.  And there is something important you all must know…

There are no fat people who are unacceptable.  Not a one.

Not the sick.

Not the disabled.

Not the queer.

Not the trans.

Not the poor.

Not the people of colour.

Not the old.

Not the weird.

Not the ugly.

Not the mentally ill.

Not the extremely fat.

Not the masculine presenting.

No fat person is unacceptable in fat activism.  It is important that when we take up the challenge of demanding dignity and respect for fat people, we need to include ALL fat people, especially those people who aren’t considered “valuable” to society.  Because human value isn’t about being pretty or fashionable or worthy.  All humans, by right of their existence, are valid, valuable people.  Fat people shouldn’t have to prove that they “contribute to society” to be included in fat activism.

I’m not saying that we have to open up the floor to every fat person who wants to have an opinion – plenty of fat people are chock full of internalised fat hate.  Fat liberation to me has no place for diet talk, proselytising weight loss, or any other form of anti-fat rhetoric.  But we need to be making sure that the people who don’t meet the standard of the cute fashion fatty have a seat at the table.

How do we do that?  Well, mostly we do it by watching our own behaviour and making sure we’re not building standards and barriers that exclude and de-value certain people.

We need to stop entertaining those who throw health questions at us.  Firstly it’s none of their business, nobody’s health is their business but their own and secondly rushing to declare that we are healthy throws those fat people with health or disability issues under the bus.  Not to mention that no human being is 100% healthy, all of the time.  We all age, go through illness and injury, and most of us will be subject to disability at some point  – it’s called age.  I’m sure many people mean well when they respond to the health policing with “But my blood sugar levels are fine!” or “I exercise every day!”  But that implies that there is something wrong with people who do have illness, or who are not active.  Again, health and physical activity are nobody’s business but your own.  The answer to the fat hating “But it’s bad for your health!” is not “My health is great!”, the answer is “Other people’s health is none of your business, and my human rights are not affected by my health or lack of it.”

We need to talk about more than access to fashion when it comes to clothes.  That doesn’t mean that we should never talk about plus-size fashion, it means that we need to open up the other issues around clothing for fat people.  When we squee over a new range, do we take notice whether or not that range is accessible to larger fats?  Or is affordably priced for fats on a lower income?

We need to talk about access to comfortable clothes and how fat people wearing comfortable clothing are stigmatised as “sloppy”.  We need to talk about access to work uniforms for fat people, and how without that access fat people are held back from employment opportunities.  We need to talk about access to surgical gowns, wound dressings and medical supports that fit our bodies, and how we are already humiliated in medical settings, without the embarrassment of ill-fitting hospital garments and discomfort of too small dressings/supports.

We need to talk about how larger fats (myself included) are routinely excluded from all of the “exciting” new fatshion collections and ranges, and why this is about more than just business.  We need to talk about how the plus-size clothing industry is terrified of the word fat, or acknowledging that their customers are fat people at all, and how this further stigmatises fat people.  We need to talk about how plus-size customers are treated with shame in retail, both by shaming us and by being ashamed of us.

When it comes to fat activism, we need to make sure we’re not walking over other fat people to raise ourselves and our own needs higher.  We need to examine our own preferences and tastes – why do we share the things we share, and follow the people we follow?  Do we uphold the very prejudices that we’re supposedly fighting against, because we have internalised the same societal bullshit as everyone else?  Are we making sure we represent a diverse range of fat people in all of our work?

What are we doing for the older fatties?  The fatties of colour?  The super fatties?  The ones that don’t care about fatshion?  The ones that can’t afford fatshion, or basic things like medical care and food?  The disabled or chronically ill (physically or mentally) fatties?   The queer fatties?  The trans* fatties?

We need to move beyond focusing on just the cuties, the fatshionable, the young, the social butterflies in the fatosphere.  We need to make it clear that fat rights are for all fat people.  There will be no real valuable social change until we do.